This guide is presented in partnership with Alfa Romeo, in the spirit of supporting local businesses in Southern NSW affected by the recent bushfires.
Let's get this out of the way first - no weekend jaunt south of Sydney is complete without a casual spray through the Royal National Park, a hub for lush nature and curvaceous tarmac just a stone’s throw from the city.
Our weapon of choice? We wanted a car that was fun, fast and fit a shitload of stuff. Enter the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, one of the most seductive performance SUVs on the market, and already a fan favourite here at Boss Hunting.
With a whip like this in the garage, we wasted no time getting on the road in the early hours of a Saturday summer morning.
When heading south on the A1, we'd recommend cutting out the crowds and the mediocre roads at the top end of the "Nasho" by entering the National Park at Waterfall.
Joining Sir Bertram Stevens Drive at the bottom of the less-frequented McKell Avenue, we turned right at the T-intersection for an enthralling hill climb through towering trees to the clifftops of Otford and Bald Hill.
We quickly learnt that a road that always delivers can only be bettered by the car you choose to drive it in.
The south coast's Sea Cliff Bridge has been flogged to death in about every car commercial since it was opened in 2005, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of your time, especially in the Stelvio Quadrifoglio. The coast road as a whole after dropping down from Stanwell Tops is actually quite a scenic and leisurely piece of undulating asphalt, skirting the beaches all the way down to Wollongong. We popped into Bread, Espresso & for a cuppa and cheese toastie, and suggest you do the same too.
Just five minutes back up the road from the coffee shop is Scarborough Pub, a cliffside hangout that’s sure to satisfy those of you craving a bigger feed. A word of warning, however, the pub and its carpark fill up quickly on weekends, so we’d recommend getting there well ahead of the kitchen opening time of 11:30 AM to claim your spot. Order quick smart as to maximise your time further south.
Merging onto the M1 at Wollongong, we continued southbound for some comfortable highway cruising before ducking off the thoroughfare and hanging a right via Albion Park towards Macquarie Pass.
This is where the fun seriously begins. A year ago we took the Stelvio's older sedan sibling - the Giulia Quadrifoglio - up this spritely stretch of twisties and had an absolute blast, so you can imagine our excitement as we approached the pass almost 12 months to the day in the Stelvio.
Macquarie Pass has to be one of the most entertaining and enjoyable hill climbs in the vicinity of Sydney, but be warned, the nature of this road as a commercial thoroughfare and tourist drive means that one wrong car ahead could spoil your driving pleasure.
We played it smart in the Stelvio, stopping to stretch our legs before beginning the climb out of the valley with not a single car in our sights. As we flicked the Stelvio's mode to 'RACE' and tugged assertively on the aluminium paddle shifters, the SUV's 2.9-litre Ferrari-built V6 snorted to life.
The Quadrifoglio’s ability to shift power from the front to the rear axles accordingly meant that the Stelvio had the agile freedom to hunt down some vivacious corners without losing its cool. Mellowing out at the top of the pass, our heart rates resumed their regular programming as we barrelled on towards Bowral after a brief stop at the famous Robertson Pie Shop.
If you hang a left at the top of Mac Pass, however, you can wrap back towards Kiama via Jamberoo Mountain Road and onto Gerringong where luxurious evening digs can be found at Mt Hay Retreat or The Berry Inn. We opted to proceed to Bowral where there are both a few more accommodation options and the location of our dinner that evening - James Viles’ famous Biota.
A spirited drive in the Stelvio is enough to get anyone all hot and bothered, so a freshen up before the evening's frivolities is essential. The stately Milton Park Country House Hotel & Spa is a popular choice for Bowral visits but the Berida Hotel is a lot closer to the action.
Just minutes walk from Biota, the Berida Hotel is also conveniently opposite Bowral Golf Club, the location of a compulsory nine holes for the following morning.
Leave the Stelvio at the hotel and make the short stroll to Biota, where you can sit for an afternoon beer in the sunlit garden at the adjoined Bertha’s Meats, which serves up an array of smoked delicacies for dinner from Thursday through Saturday and a long lunch on Sunday.
Next door at Biota, enthusiastic fine dinners will enjoy a produce-driven, five or ten-course degustation menu showcasing the best of the Southern Highlands, inspired by Viles’ travels through Australia.
For those who aren’t motivated by the idea of crawling out of bed early on Sunday morning to swing steel sticks, Bowral has plenty to offer in the way of antiques, chocolate and wine.
A mosey down Bong Bong Street to the corner of Banyette will find you at Dirty Janes antique market, with over 50 dealers touting their goods. Once it becomes all too much, a coffee at Bespoke Letterpress Cafe is only steps away. And finally, no visit to Bowral is complete without blowing the budget on a selection of cocoa treats from Ms Peacock, arguably one of the finest chocolate producers in the country.
Once you’ve loaded up the Stelvio for your return, a visit to Centennial Winery on your way out of town is a great opportunity for a light bite, with an incredible view overlooking the vines. The region’s cool-climate and elevation compliment the production of popular styles like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as well as plenty of more exotic grapes, which feature heavily on Centennial’s extensive cellar door menu.
Alfa Romeo's Stelvio Quadrifoglio starts at AU$149,900, and you can either see more at alfaromeo.com.au, or explore our previous coverage of the Quadrifoglio range below.
Catch our 'Lunch Run' with the Stelvio Quadrifoglio on Facebook Watch.
Read John's launch piece on the Stelvio Quadrifoglio after his session driving it around Melbourne's Albert Park.
Then watch our first and last 90 seconds living with the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio in this video here.